As a diehard American sports fan, my favorite sports to follow religiously are baseball, basketball and football. Respectively, each sport connects to different values and aspects of the country's society. Baseball, once considered America's pastime, provides fans with great family atmosphere in ballparks. The fast-paced and action-packed flow of basketball really appeals to society's crave for nonstop entertainment. Football, the country's perfect sport, embodies almost every element American's value. Every down is full of underlying stories about the American dream, money, power, dominance as well as teamwork and sportsmanship.
Similarly, British football, or soccer as Americans know it, also appeals to the millions of British fans because of their cultural values. Generally, Europeans value their nation's athletic successes more than Americans do, and that passion for sport and greatness truly comes alive at the football pitch. The two sports also have plenty of other similarities. Obviously, both nationally acclaimed sports are played on massive green-grass fields, but many other resemblances exist.
When I attended Fulham FC's match against Sunderland AFC last week, I took a moment to truly embrace these similarities and many of the two sports' cultural differences as well.
I found it very interesting that in both countries tailgating, beer and food are utilized in the same fashions. It really doesn't matter what land your feet are standing on, football is truly about watching and enjoying sport with your friends. Both football, American and British, also possess something of an in-stadium element of entertainment that ranges from mascots to music to video board games.
However, more differences exist in the two cultures than similarities.
Take the stadium video board for example. After visiting two British football stadiums, Wembley Stadium and Craven Cottage, soccer fans' differing values were clearly shown in the stadiums' relatively tiny video board. In American sporting stadiums, gigantic multi-ton jumbotrons hang in every building. Americans clearly value instant replay as soon as possible, along with as much catered entertainment as possible.
British fans simply value the love of the game and pure sport. There are no statistic screens on every wall inside the arenas, seats aren't especially comfortable and the crowd's passionate applause is always in unison. On the field, the British game is more sport than business as well. With advertisements on each teams' jersey, fans aren't distracted by the minimal ads around the pitch, unlike the thousands of company names and slogans plastered around American fields and courts. Fans even sit in their team's fan section at stadiums, similar to high school football games in America. And, famously, these seating patterns allow for fantastic, endless team cheers during the game.
Even though I consider myself a proud, educated and passionate top-tier American sports fan, I really appreciate British football's cultural values and elements that differ from America's. I look forward to every Sunday from one in the afternoon until eleven-thirty at night, even though I'm a tortured Philadelphia Eagles fans, but I wish American football adopted some of soccer's international elements.
How cool would it be for UCLA fans to be able to sit in their own section at USC's Coliseum? Wouldn't all the Baltimore Ravens fans out there enjoy sitting with fellow purple and black fans at a Pittsburgh Steelers game at Heinz Field? And, of course, Red Sox fans would appreciate a Boston section in Yankee Stadium.
In a world where casual sports fans and sports naysayers constantly argue that professional sports represent everything that is wrong with the globe's monetarily driven society, it would be nice for American sports culture to adopt more pure appreciation for the games and the physical specimens who play them. While the sports business is far too lucrative to turn from its profitable corporate functions, as fans, we have the moral responsibility to start appreciating sport for the human greatness it celebrates instead of the negative American values it sometimes portrays.